Photo Credit: Nati Shohat / Flash 90
Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing protective clothes as they work at the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on September 23, 2020.

The Israeli government pulled an all-nighter on Wednesday to decide the next steps in the fight against COVID-19 after nearly seven thousand more Israelis were diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus in just 24 hours on Tuesday — and then again the next day.

A full lockdown was approved by the cabinet, to be voted upon by the Knesset by the end of the day on Thursday. Nearly all public transportation will be shut down, as will the special education programs and private preschools — the only programs that remained open at this point.

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“We’re headed to a shutdown in any case because of the morbidity rate,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday night in a video. “It’s better to do it now, during the holidays, at a low economic cost and not after the holidays when the economic cost will be higher.”

Following are the new restrictions set forth by the Coronavirus Cabinet, effective Friday at 2 pm and in force for at least the next two weeks, until the end of the holiday of Simchat Torah.

  • All places of employment to close except those deemed “essential.”
  • Finance Ministry, PMO and National Security Council officials to determine which government agencies to close, which to remain operational, and at which capacities.
  • All open-air markets are closed.
  • Restaurants may offer home delivery service only.
  • Synagogues closed, except for prayers on Yom Kippur, in accordance with pre-approved protocol for Rosh Hashanah – that is, groups of 10 permitted to pray inside the synagogue, remainder of worshipers outdoors.
  • Travel restricted to one kilometer from home. Exceptions must be approved by police, who will be deployed on highways and at entrances to cities and towns to enforce the restriction.
  • Prayers and protests are allowed only in open spaces and only up to maximum 20 people each of whom must be two meters apart from the next, within one kilometer of one’s home.
  • Sports are cancelled except for official international games.
  • Supermarkets / food stores / pharmacies / essential items & services continue to be available as usual.

The Health Ministry reported that 6,808 more Israelis were diagnosed with the coronavirus on Wednesday after 54,364 people received their test results — the second day in a row the number of confirmed daily new cases approached the seven thousand mark. Health officials say they are especially concerned about the 12.4 percent contagion rate, with Health Ministry Itamar Grotto telling lawmakers last week that the lockdown should be lifted only when the contagion rate drops below the seven percent mark.

Part of the problem is due to the reluctance of Israelis to obey the self-quarantine regulations: IDF Home Front Command, tasked with building the national contact-tracing and epidemiological investigation system set to be deployed within the next few weeks — hopefully to stem the infections without the need for repeated lockdowns — said Wednesday it estimates that as many as 41 percent of the population currently required to self-quarantine simply is not complying with the mandate.

As a result, more and more Israelis are being infected, becoming carriers, and on it goes.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.